S. Dakota AG hires missing Indigenous, trafficking positions

Nov 29, 2022, 9:19 PM | Updated: Nov 30, 2022, 11:32 am

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota’s attorney general on Wednesday announced that he has filled a position to coordinate efforts from state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations, to tackle alarming rates of Indigenous people going missing or having their deaths remain unsolved.

The attorney general’s office has put a new focus on crimes against Native American people, recently hiring two women to address problems Vargo described as interrelated: human trafficking and missing or murdered Indigenous people.

The state’s Native American communities suffer from what advocates describe as crisis-level rates of people going missing or killed. Currently, 57% of people who are listed in the attorney general’s database of missing people are Native American, despite them representing less than 9% of the state’s total population. It’s a problem that is not restricted to South Dakota. Tribes, federal agencies and state governments nationwide are trying to tackle a decades-long crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

Allison Morrisette, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who previously worked in the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office, will be South Dakota’s new Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Coordinator. Mary Beth Holzwarth, who previously directed an organization dedicated to child sexual assault prevention called Endeavor 52, will be the Human Trafficking Coordinator.

Vargo said they would focus on pulling together resources to address crimes that often cross tribal and state boundaries.

“No single entity or agency can solve the problems that we face,” he said at a news conference. “We all face some of the same problems and we have to face them together.”

The hirings, however, come almost two years after the Legislature created the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Coordinator in the attorney general’s office.

Rep. Peri Pourier, a Democratic state lawmaker who spearheaded the effort to create the position, said at the news conference that she was frustrated that it had taken so long to hire someone, though she credited Vargo with making it a priority once he was appointed to the office in June.

“I am actually glad it took Attorney General Vargo to come to the table,” she said. “This is a problem that is going to take all of us.”

Vargo has also proposed a commission, made up of advocates, state leaders and tribal officials, to advise the attorney general’s office.

The hiring delay had come under the previous attorney general, Jason Ravnsborg. He had told the Legislature that he was supportive of the position, but he had not received the funding from the Legislature to do it.

Native Hope, an organization affiliated with St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, stepped in to fund the position with a grant for the first three years. Vargo said the funding will help the position get started and anticipated the state would fund the position after that.

Morrisette, the new Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Coordinator said in a statement she was determined to change how Native Americans see the state’s law enforcement.

“A lot of my relatives feel they are overlooked,” she said. “My job with the Attorney General’s Office is to ensure that is not true.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Signage outside PayPal headquarters in San Jose, Calif., is pictured on March 10, 2015. PayP...
Associated Press

PayPal to cut 2,000 jobs in latest tech company cost-cutting

PayPal said Tuesday it will trim about 7% of its total workforce, or about 2,000 full-time workers
9 hours ago
FILE - Al-Shabab fighters conduct military exercise in northern Mogadishu's Suqaholaha neighborhood...
Associated Press

Regional heads plan joint push against al-Shabab in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The leaders of Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya have agreed on a joint “search and destroy” military campaign against the Somali al-Shabab Islamic militant group that has carried out attacks in the region — including firing mortars near the meeting venue in Mogadishu before officials gathered Wednesday. In a joint communique […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Money Mexican migrants send home up 13.4% in 2022

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The money that Mexican migrants send home to their relatives grew by 13.4% in 2022, totaling about $58.5 billion for the year as a whole, Mexico’s central bank said Wednesday. While that is a record amount for migrant remittances to Mexico, it represents a slowing of growth. In 2021, remittances grew […]
1 day ago
FILE - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on a TV screen, as he appears in a video li...
Associated Press

Putin foe Navalny says he’s in solitary cell for 6 months

MOSCOW (AP) — Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said in a social media post published Wednesday that prison authorities have placed him in a one-person cell for six months, a move his lawyer described as part of authorities’ efforts to damage Navalny’s health. Navalny, 46, said on Instagram that he had been denied the […]
1 day ago
This illustration provided by Nikola Nevenov in January 2023 depicts a priest during an embalming p...
Associated Press

How to make a mummy: Ancient Egyptian workshop has new clues

NEW YORK (AP) — For thousands of years, ancient Egyptians mummified their dead in the search for eternal life. Now, researchers have used chemistry and an unusual collection of jars to figure out how they did it. Their study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, is based on a rare archaeological find: An embalming workshop […]
1 day ago
FILE - Visitors wait in front of a "Black Panther" movie banner, during an invitation-only screenin...
Associated Press

AMC exits Saudi Arabia as young cinema market booms

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — AMC Entertainment Holdings, the world’s biggest cinema chain, has decided to exit Saudi Arabia’s fast-growing market in the face of intense competition. The decision, announced Tuesday, comes less than five years after AMC opened the kingdom’s first movie theater following a decades-long ban. Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
S. Dakota AG hires missing Indigenous, trafficking positions